The hidden credit card surcharge rip off in Canberra cafes

Horrid 22 November 2010 24

Most of us who frequent Canberra’s cafes would be aware of the recent spread of the $2 surcharge on credit card transactions. I am not starting this discussion regarding this charge itself, or whatever reasons  (presumably passed on bank charges) cafe owners consider it neccessary to impose it.  I don’t even particularly object to it; it’s a free market and cafe owners are legally entitled to charge it, and patrons are similarly entitled to either pay up or take their custom elswhere.  The ‘rip off’ label in the title of this post refers not to imposition of the charge itself, but rather the fact that in most of these cafes, there is no prior indication that it will be charged. There is no sign on the door or table, and nothing written on the menu- just the verbal advice of the cashier, or a sign at the payment counter, AFTER you have consumed your meal or snack and no longer have the option of deciding to eat there or not. 

Canberrans need to understand that in such circumstances, they are under no legal obligation whatsoever  to pay a fee that they had no idea they would be charged for. My strong advice to anyone finding out about it for the first time at the payment counter is to point blank refuse to pay it. And, if the cashier repeatedly refuses to accept your offer of payment minus the illegal $2 charge, then my understanding is that you are perfectly entitled to walk out without paying at all, because you offered to pay what you legally owed and they refused to accept it.  So Canberrans, refuse to pay what you don’t owe, and cafe owners, if you are going to impose this charge then be up-front, not sneaky about it!


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24 Responses to The hidden credit card surcharge rip off in Canberra cafes
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Ian Ian 8:27 pm 22 Nov 10

But then, who pays a $4 bill with a credit card?

Pandy Pandy 8:20 pm 22 Nov 10

You refused to pay them cash, so the money could not go under the till and they would not need to declare tax upon it.

What are you some sort of Scrooge to refuse to give them an extra $2 so that they can line their pockets?

I-filed I-filed 7:54 pm 22 Nov 10

antycbr said :

The $2 for a credit card transaction isn’t too bad – being charged $7.70 on a purchase of typically $100 for a Qantas flight is outrageous… Or 10% for using non-cash payment methods in taxis which are already extortionate and underwhelming in Canberra…

$2 is far worse – that’s 50% on top of a coffee if you just have one on its own, as many do …

el el 7:30 pm 22 Nov 10

Paying with cash is always an option.

JessicaNumber JessicaNumber 7:29 pm 22 Nov 10

Luckily I am able to buy coffee without needing a lawyer. And given what they cost, I would be delighted to give away $2 if it meant avoiding the need for their services. I would consider myself very poorly represented if advised otherwise 😛

arescarti42 arescarti42 7:07 pm 22 Nov 10

The places that really bug the shit out of me are those that state a minimum amount for credit card transactions.

It is against the terms and conditions of the contract they sign with both Mastercard and Visa (not sure about AMEX) to have a minimum purchase amount.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 6:19 pm 22 Nov 10

Horrid said :

“Are you a lawyer? I’m pretty sure you’re not my lawyer. All lawyers I have observed at work prefer to calm a situation and get away from the conflict rather than start a fight over $2.”

Jessica, If your lawyer ‘calms a situation’ by handing over money they don’t owe, I doubt they represent you very well.

And who said anyone needs to start a fight or get angry? Neither of these is necessary, and I never do. To clearly say “I am not liable for this charge and will not be paying it” does not require shouting.

Well said. Informing them calmly that you aren’t paying something you weren’t advised of and offering to pay the charge without the surcharge is the best thing to do. Be clear that you are offering to pay, and if they don’t accept, leave without paying. If they touch you, call the Police.

Ian Ian 5:44 pm 22 Nov 10

Can’t say I’ve ever run into this surcharge in cafes or restaurants. In fact, I can only recall it at servos and newsagents, and even then only on some products, and of course airlines.

Horrid Horrid 5:34 pm 22 Nov 10

“Are you a lawyer? I’m pretty sure you’re not my lawyer. All lawyers I have observed at work prefer to calm a situation and get away from the conflict rather than start a fight over $2.”

Jessica, If your lawyer ‘calms a situation’ by handing over money they don’t owe, I doubt they represent you very well. And who said anyone needs to start a fight or get angry? Neither of these is necessary, and I never do. To clearly say “I am not liable for this charge and will not be paying it” does not require shouting.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 5:02 pm 22 Nov 10

The cards issued by most banks will charge the retailer roughly between 0.7% and 2.8% of the purchase cost. The amount will differ between banks and depend on things like turn-over. American Express and Diners Club charge more with that latter pushing 7% in some instances – which is why you see so many signs advising that DC isn’t accepted.

I’m guessing adding $1-$2 to the bill is just lazy math as the shop assistant couldnt be arsed figuring out what 1.2% of $89.90 is.

personally I think that the law should be changed so that the retailer has to not only tell you your copping the fee but which bank (pardon the pun) is charging them so much that they have to pass on the cost.

basketcase basketcase 4:35 pm 22 Nov 10

Aldi tell you they are going to charge you if you use a credit card, its 1% and I suspect that goes close to meeting their costs.

I would love to know the charging regime for credit cards, but I bet it depends on who you are, (Woolies or Jo Blow) and also the type of credit card. At one stage, and probably still, a lot of servos and other places wouldn’t take American Express because AE wanted more than fair share to use their card.

The taxi (cabcharge) industry went through a hiatus a number of years ago because Visa imposed “unacceptable” conditions on their use in taxis.

Obviously there is big money in the credit card game, everyone is out to get their cut and the end user is the one that pays for it. I reckon I could knock a couple of bucks of a tank full of petrol if the servo was cash only, but then the servo wouldn’t do to much business!

cmdwedge cmdwedge 4:31 pm 22 Nov 10

One place tried stinging me a flat-rate public holiday surcharge of $7 – on a $3 takeaway coffee.

Did not end up getting a coffee from that place.

astrojax astrojax 1:45 pm 22 Nov 10

the cafe/restaurant rip-off at large at the moment is those places who seek to add a surcharge to the bill on sundays and public holidays. this is not lawful and if they want to charge you more on those days they must have a different menu. you can refuse this, but as i am not a lawyer and suspect the op is not one either, i am not convinced by the argument, particularly noting caf’s and ck’s sage contributions (& this is not a plug for sage, btw)

trix trix 1:45 pm 22 Nov 10

It’s not “common knowledge” to me. And while it is only $2, being forced to pay for something you were previously unaware of is more commonly known as extortion.

Also, according to the law, as summarised on the ACCC website:

Businesses are required to provide consumers with a single cash price for the products or services they offer. The single price means the minimum total cost that is able to be quantified (or calculated) at the time the representation is made.

The single price must include any charges a consumer must pay to purchase the product or service, such as administration fees or booking fees, as well as taxes, duties, fees, levies or charges payable by the consumer for the supply of the product or service.

It’s not rocket science.

troll-sniffer troll-sniffer 1:34 pm 22 Nov 10

A cafe that charges a credit card surcharge is most likely sacrificing long term prfitability for short term gain. My uneducated guess is that 80+% of patrons cop the $2 surcharge without a murmur but mentally make a note not to go back. Their lack of repeat business might not show up in the trading figures for a couple of months or more but when it does it’ll most likely be too late.

Still, I don’t run a cafe so perhaps I don’t know WTF I’m talking about.

niftydog niftydog 12:50 pm 22 Nov 10

I thought it was common knowledge these days. In cafes we frequent we make a habit of paying in cash, even if they don’t pass on the charge. That way everybody is happy!

Of course, you’ll never be happy if the pain of handing over $2 is enough to make steam come out of your ears.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 12:45 pm 22 Nov 10

I’m not a lawyer either, but I’m pretty sure that credit cards aren’t legal tender – so offering your credit card as payment is not sufficient to settle your bill, should the merchant decline to accept it.

Years ago in another life I worked in a restaurant. One night a customer’s credit card was declined by the bank. The customer told us they had no cash and said that they would come by the following night to settle the bill. They left a business card and walked out the door.

The boss was furious when he found out what had happend. He rang the cops and was that there wasn’t anything that they could do – it was a comercial matter between a debtor and a creditor. As it turned out the bloke did come by the following night.

Mysteryman Mysteryman 11:58 am 22 Nov 10

antycbr said :

The $2 for a credit card transaction isn’t too bad – being charged $7.70 on a purchase of typically $100 for a Qantas flight is outrageous… Or 10% for using non-cash payment methods in taxis which are already extortionate and underwhelming in Canberra…

$2 is usually about 7-10% of the amount I spend at a cafe if I’m eating. That’s proportionate to the QANTAS charge.

caf caf 11:48 am 22 Nov 10

I’m not a lawyer either, but I’m pretty sure that credit cards aren’t legal tender – so offering your credit card as payment is not sufficient to settle your bill, should the merchant decline to accept it.

JessicaNumber JessicaNumber 11:18 am 22 Nov 10

“Canberrans need to understand that in such circumstances, they are under no legal obligation whatsoever  to pay a fee that they had no idea they would be charged for. My strong advice to anyone finding out about it for the first time at the payment counter is to point blank refuse to pay it. And, if the cashier repeatedly refuses to accept your offer of payment minus the illegal $2 charge, then my understanding is that you are perfectly entitled to walk out without paying at all, because you offered to pay what you legally owed and they refused to accept it.”

Are you a lawyer? I’m pretty sure you’re not my lawyer. All lawyers I have observed at work prefer to calm a situation and get away from the conflict rather than start a fight over $2.

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